23 May

A Roman Cultural Icon

When heading in the direction of a Roman Cultural Icon like the Coliseum, the initial thought, which comes to mind when traveling in the direction of that coliseum for the first time, is the high degree of anticipation to see the famous massive structure that symbolizes Rome.

It is clearly the most identifiable structure of the Roman Empire, even to the most casual historical observer. Upon first gaze , one stands in awe and asks the simple question, “How did they build this so long ago?” It is spectacular and does not disappoint.

In 72 AD the immense stadium was constructed by the Emperor Flavius to give back something to the citizens of Rome. His son, Emperor Titus, completed it and named it the Flavian amphitheater in honor of his father.

Sadly, it was built at the expense of the Jews of Jerusalem. Rome crushed a Jewish rebellion in Palestine in 68 AD. The Jewish temple was ransacked; and it’s valuable contents, as well as thousands of Jews who became slaves, were transported back to Rome. The Jewish slaves were craftsmen who labored on the construction of the Flavian amphitheater. The amphitheater was financed from the wealth of the Jerusalem temple.

The towering structure seated approximately 50,000 spectators, who were issued metal tickets. Each ticket took the individual to their section number, row, and seat. The coliseum had seventy-six entry/exit portals and could be emptied in a mere 20 minutes. Once the spectators were in place they witnessed everything from major animal circus events to gladiator battles. The gladiator battles were against wild beasts or other gladiators.   Contrary to popular belief, Christians were not executed in the coliseum. However, activities at midday were often taken up with the execution of convicted criminals. Sounds like a great way to spend lunch!

The coliseum measurements are approximately 220 yards long (longer than 2 football fields), 180 yards wide, and 60 yards high (equivalent to 15 stories). Entering the arena is similar to entering a football stadium today. But instead of proceeding up the ramps of steel stairs under a steel structure, you walk between massive concrete and marble columns and up brick stairs still in place today. When arriving at a portal into the stadium, it is easy to imagine the vast space filled with 50,000 plus Roman citizens cheering loudly.

Somehow, the crowds were not much different from us today, except they had exceptional reality shows 2,000 years ago!  Explore More!

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